Senior first baseman Meredith Hackett leads the Illini at the plate with a .392 batting average, a .647 slugging percentage and a .523 on-base percentage.
March 14, 2012
In 2012, Illinois is...
7-2 when allowing two or fewer runs.
8-2 in games decided by two or fewer runs.
7-1 when scoring the first run of the game.
5-0 when leading after four innings.
3-0 when playing perfect defense.
USF Under Armour Invitational Preview
Illinois wraps up tournament action at the USF Under Armour Invitational, hosted by South Florida from March 16-18. While in Florida, the Illini will face Providence, Boston University, Massachusetts, Maryland and Tennessee-Chattanooga. Illinois opens the tournament with a contest against Providence, the third time the Illini and Friars will meet in the previous two years, while Providence stands at 5-11 on the young season.
A trio of Friars starters are batting above .300 through 16 games, with Jessie Bryant's .357 average leading the way. Bryant owns the highest on-base percentage (.471) courtesy of eight walks while the junior owns 10 runs scored and nine RBIs. Kaitlyn Duval follows with a .311 mark, though Duval only reached 32.6 percent of the time due to her free-swinging style, which has resulted in 15 strikeouts against zero walks drawn. Stephanie Kiesel, is also hitting .311 to round out the group, with a team-high 12 RBIs and four doubles.
The Providence pitching staff has struggled early, owning a combined 6.05 ERA with 83 earned runs allowed in only 96 innings of work. Shannelle Harrell (1-0 record) has found success in limited time, owning a 1.83 ERA in two appearances spanning 7 2/3 innings. None of the three additional pitchers to see work owns an ERA under 5.00, as Corinne Clauss (5.09 ERA, 28 IP), Alicia Grosso (6.39, 46) and Emily O'Keefe (9.28, 14.1) round out the group.
Illinois and Providence split a two-game series at the Blue & Gold Felsberg Memorial Tournament from Feb. 18-20, 2011. The Illini took the win in the first contest, on Feb. 18, 8-0 in five innings; however, the Friars rallied back two days later, taking a 6-5 victory to close tournament action in Miami.
The Illini follow with a contest against Boston University, which stands at 10-6 overall with victories in five of their previous six contests against college competition. The Terriers own a balanced attack that averages a .277 clip at the plate while a pair of hurlers have paced the pitching staff.
Megan Volpano is batting .396 through 16 games, owning nine RBIs and five doubles. Jayme Mask follows with a .352 batting average and a team-high 11 runs scored while Erica Casacci is hitting .326 while playing perfect defense. Emily Roesch is the final Terrier hitting at least .300, owning a .304 mark with five doubles to go with 10 RBIs.
Holli Floetker owns the most innings pitched, 65.0, and has the most decisions, earning an 8-2 record behind a 2.35 ERA and .242 batting average against through 13 appearances, including nine starts. Whitney Tuthill follows with 40 1/3 innings of work, owning a 2-2 record and a 2.45 ERA with only 11 earned runs allowed.
Illinois and Boston U. last faced off at the NFCA Leadoff Classic on Feb. 26, 2012, with the Terriers coming away victorious, 8-1, behind a five-run top of the seventh.
After battling Boston U., Illinois will face Massachusetts for the third time this season. UMass stands at 7-7 through 14 games and has played up and down softball throughout the season, never advancing more than two games over or falling more than one game under .500 so far.
Leadoff batter Cyndil Matthew owns the best batting average on the team at .415 (17-of-41), while drawing five walks to earn a .478 on-base percentage. Matthew owns four doubles among her 17 hits and is perfect in seven stolen base attempts. However, as a whole, the Minutewomen are only batting .213 (72-of-338) with a .331 slugging percentage, while only drawing 37 walks against 91 strikeouts.
Two-time All-American Sara Plourde returns as the staff ace as a senior, owning a 79-29 career record at UMass in 117 appearances, including 108 starts. Plourde (6-5) has struggled early this season though, owning a 2.97 ERA in 73 innings, giving up 31 earned runs on 41 hits and 52 walks while striking out 121.
Illinois and Massachusetts last met at the NFCA Leadoff Classic this season, with the Illini coming away victorious, 4-2, behind a 3-for-4, two runs scored performance from center fielder Brittany Sanchez. Orange and Blue staff ace Pepper Gay earned her fourth win of the year in the process, limiting UMass to four hits and one walk while striking out six in the complete game effort.
Next up is Maryland, which owns a 16-6 record and victories in the previous five contests. The Terrapins have hit their way past teams through 22 games, owning a .276 team batting average, with Lexi Carroll's .342 clip leading the way. Five Maryland players are hitting above .300, while seven own 10 or more RBIs.
Kendra Knight paces the pitching staff as the team's ace. Knight owns a 2.80 ERA and an 11-2 record through 90 innings of work, allowing 36 earned runs on 55 hits and 92 walks, striking out 112 in the process as opponents hit just .175 against the senior.
Illinois and the Terrapins last met during the ESPN Citrus Classis, hosted a Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex in Kissimmee, Fla. The Illini battled back from a 1-0 deficit with three runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to create the difference in the 3-1 victory on March 3, 2011.
Tennessee-Chattanooga is the final team on the Under Armour Invitational schedule, as the Mocs stand at 14-9 on the season, including four victories in the previous five games. Chattanooga is led by .339 team batting average (207-of-611) that includes 36 doubles, 26 home runs and 126 RBIs. Sara Poteat's .468 mark (37-for-79) paces the team, while power-hitters Michelle Fuzzard (.443 BA, 27-for-61) and Kasey Tydingco (.415, 27-for-65) following. Combined, Fuzzard and Tydingco own 49 RBIs, 13 doubles and 10 home runs through 23 games played.
Fuzzard doubles as one of Tennessee-Chattanooga's two pitchers to see time this season, owning a 2.78 ERA and 5-5 record with 25 earned runs allowed in 63 innings of work. Taylor Deason completes the pitching duo, owning a 9-4 record and 2.15 ERA behind only 25 earned runs allowed in 81 1/3 innings, holding opponents to 73 hits and 31 walks while striking out 70.
The Illini and Mocs have met once previously, with Tennessee-Chattanooga coming away victorious, 10-1, in five innings on March 10, 2006.
Eller Media Stadium Classic Recap
Illinois finished with a 3-2 record in the Eller Media Stadium Classis, hosted by UNLV from March 2-4 in Las Vegas, Nev. The Illini defeated New Mexico State, 4-3; UNLV, 3-2 and Florida Atlantic, 7-6; while falling to FAU, 8-5 in eight innings and Seton Hall, 1-0.
Jenna Mychko had a breakout tournament after returning from a broken thumb at the NFCA Leadoff Classic, finishing with a .444 batting average on 8-for-18 hitting while driving in eight runs. Mychko's best performance came in the 8-5 extra-innings loss to Florida Atlantic, where the sophomore went 2-for-3 with five RBIs. In the sixth, with Illinois down, 5-0, Mychko knocked a three-run double down the left field line to cut the deficit to two. In the following inning, with two on and two out, Mychko pushed a two-run single up the middle to tie the contest at 5-5.
The Illini rebounded from the FAU loss with a 4-3 victory over New Mexico State, a team that entered the tournament receiving votes for the NFCA Top-25 Poll. To earn the win, Pepper Gay outdueled Aggies staff ace Alex Newman, holding New Mexico State to three runs - two earned - while striking out seven. Meredith Hackett paced the offense, finishing 4-for-4, adding three RBIs on a solo home run and a two-RBI single.
Illinois suffered a heart-breaking loss to Seton Hall, 1-0, during which starting pitcher Jackie Guy tossed a one-hitter while holding the Pirates to four total base runners while striking out three without allowing a walk. Seton Hall scored the lone run of the contest on a pair of errors in the first inning, with the third base run crossing the plate during a rundown between first and second.
The Orange and Blue again rebounded by downing host-UNLV, 3-2. Gay proved to be clutch in the winning effort, providing seven innings of two-run softball while striking out eight batters. UNLV scored both its runs in the first inning; however, the Illini answered with two runs on a Jami Schkade double in the second and the winning run on a Mychko sacrifice flyout in the fifth.
Illinois wrapped up play in Las Vegas with a come-from-behind 7-6 victory over FAU, during which the Illini scored the final six runs of the contest. Guy put Illinois on the board first with an RBI-double in the second. However, FAU responded with six runs in the bottom of the frame to push ahead, 6-1. The Illini chipped away at the deficit immediately, scoring four on a pair of singles and a sac fly in the third. After Jess Perkins tied the contest by scoring on an illegal pitch in the fifth, Mychko provided the difference with a seventh inning two-out solo home run that glanced off the foul pole.
Mychko Earns Big Ten Player of the Week
Jenna Mychko tallied the first conference honor of her career following an 8-for-18 (.444) weekend at the Eller Media Stadium Classic, hosted by UNLV. Mychko provided clutch hitting throughout, starting with all five RBIs against FAU on March 2, a contest during which Mychko hit a three-run double and a two-run, bottom of the seventh, two-out single that tied the contest. Mychko followed with the eventual winning RBI on a sacrifice flyout against the host-Rebels on March 3 before adding a game-winning solo home run against FAU during Illinois' six-run comeback win over FAU on March 4. This marks Mychko's first weekly conference award and the first for the Illini this season.
In Search Of Her 400th Win
Over the previous 12 seasons, Illinois head coach Terri Sullivan has secured success of a regional and national level as the leader of the Illini. As a result of this ability to win immediately, Sullivan is already in search of win No. 400 in her 13th year as a head coach.
Eighteen games into the 2012 season, Sullivan owns 398 victories at the helm of the Orange and Blue program and is averaging nearly 30 wins per season. In total, Sullivan has taken the Orange and Blue to four NCAA Tournaments and battled conference foes in the Big Ten Tournament in seven of the eight seasons it has been held since the Illini joined the conference in 2001.
Making Them Earn It Illinois head coach Terri Sullivan continues to schedule difficult competition to challenge her Illini against the top teams nationally. On the schedule this season are six ranked within the most recent National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Top-25 poll, which is in turn used by the NCAA as the official rankings. Illinois has already faced ranked opponents in No. 10 Tennessee and No. 25 Louisville, and owns victories over teams that were receiving votes for the top-25 in UMass and New Mexico State.
Complete Game(s) For The Win(s)
Pepper Gay earned her fifth complete game victory of the season against UNLV, 3-2, on March 3. Gay has tossed a trio of complete-game shutouts this year, earning three of her seven wins in the process. Gay added three more complete game victories in the previous two weeks, including wins over UMass, New Mexico State and UNLV.
Seven of Illinois' nine wins this year have come when a member of the Orange and Blue pitching staff goes the distance in the contest. Jackie Guy recorded the one additional total-contest shutout effort, going five innings in a mercy-rule shortened win over Michigan State, allowing one hit against four strikeouts.
Swinging A Big Stick In 2012 After fighting through hamstring injuries during the latter half of 2011, senior first baseman Meredith Hackett has returned to her 2010 NFCA All-American form, owning a .392 batting average (20-for-51) with four doubles and three home runs to pace the Illini with a .647 slugging percentage through 18 games. Hackett has achieved this success at the plate despite consistently being pitched around, owning 12 walks to earn a .523 on-base mark.
Hackett has been clutch at the plate early, hitting a three-run homer against Michigan State in the first inning, and late, with a game-winning, bottom-of-the-seventh RBI-single against Pittsburgh on Feb. 19. Among all Big Ten softball players, Hackett ranks fourth in walks (12), sixth in on-base percentage (.523), chances (124) and putouts (114) and ninth in slugging percentage (.647).
Ironwomen At The Corners
Over the previous three seasons, senior third baseman Kelley Wedel and senior first baseman Meredith Hackett have combined to start 328 of a possible 331 contests at their respective positions of third and first base, with both accruing streaks of more than 140 consecutive starts simultaneously.
Wedel has started 164 of the 166 career games she has played in, securing third for all but 15 total innings from the season opener of her freshman year through the current campaign. The first of three games Wedel did not play the entirety of at the hot corner was during the opening tournament of her first season, when she subbed in for Audrey Gallien at third to begin the fifth inning against No. 17 California on Feb. 7, 2009. Wedel switched from third to designated player against No. 24 Georgia Tech on Feb. 18, 2011 before the start of the fourth inning and served as a pinch hitter against UNLV on March 3, 2012. During her time with the Illini, Wedel has played 1,082 innings at third, recording 177 putouts and 185 assists in 396 total chances, good for a .914 fielding percentage.
Hackett has played in 165 total contests, making 164 starts, including the first 142 games of her Illini career. During the previous three seasons, Hackett missed one game due to injury (vs. DePaul, May 5, 2011) and was limited to pinch-hitting duties in the game prior to the one against the Blue Demons (vs. Iowa, May 4, 2011). At first base, Hackett has consistently been a sure-handed player, earning a .983 career fielding percentage behind 966 putouts and 51 assists in 1,035 total chances, the fourth-most in Illini history.
Taking One For The Team Senior third baseman Kelley Wedel was struck by a pair of pitches against No. 10 Tennessee to move into first place all-time on the Illini hits by pitch listing, with 37. Wedel already owns a tie for the single-season mark for plunkings (14). An aggressive hitter who does not back off the plate, Wedel was struck by seven pitches as a freshman in 2009 before being hit 13 times in 2010 and 14 more in 2011.
Setting Them Down On Strikes Starting pitcher Pepper Gay earned her first victory of the season in spectacular fashion, throwing an eight-inning complete game shutout over UAB. During the contest, Gay struck out 11 batters against allowing only two hits. The number of punchouts in the contest ranks tied for fifth in the Illinois record book for most strikeouts in a single contest, only two shy of tying Amanda Fortune's program mark of 13 against Virginia Tech on March 18, 2001. Through four weekends of play, Gay ranks fourth among all Big Ten pitchers with 67 strikeouts, while the junior is averaging 7.10 strikeouts per seven-inning game.
One Hit Is All You Get
Starting pitcher Jackie Guy also secured her first win of the season with a shutdown performance, holding Michigan State to one hit over a five-inning, mercy rule-shortened 8-0 victory. The lone MSU baserunner came on a first inning leadoff single to center by Lauren Padilla. Padilla reached as far as second on a stolen base with one out; however, Guy induced a groundout from Ali Grant and caught Kayla Hopkins looking to end the Spartans only chance to score.
After giving up the base knock, Guy retired 14 batters on six flyouts, four groundouts and four strikeouts - three of them looking. The one-hit performance marks the second time Guy has limited an opponent to a single base knock, as the Buena Park, Calif., native also achieved the feat against Pittsburgh in a five inning 8-0 victory on Feb. 19, 2011.
Classmate Pepper Gay matched Guy's feat of only one hit allowed in the contest against Hofstra at the NFCA Leadoff Classic, giving up a lone single on a second-inning slow-rolling ball into the hole between third and shortstop off Jess Hirschbuhl's bat.
Guy replicated her one-hit performance against Seton Hall during a heart-breaking 1-0 loss. The only run of the game scored as a result of a pair of first inning errors, while the Pirates were limited to four total base runners and didn't earn their only hit until the fifth inning.
World's Largest Softball Tailgate IX
The Orange and Blue will host World's Largest Softball Tailgate IX against Penn State on Saturday, May 5, when the Nittany Lions travel to Urbana for a doubleheader. World's Largest Softball Tailgate, organized by Illinois Division of Intercollegiate Athletics administrative representatives, provides a fun family atmosphere full of live music, inflatable games, face painting and, of course, lots of softball and tailgating. The event has drawn over 1,000 fans to Eichelberger Field on four occasions, setting the single-game attendance record on April 28, 2007 against DePaul when 1,445 people arrived to support the Orange and Blue. Admission and parking to the games, as well as each contest played on Eichelberger Field in 2012, are free to all.
Illinois swept competition with Western Illinois, 3-2 and 2-0, during the most recent World's Largest Softball Tailgate event, held on May 7, 2011. In game one, Jessica Davis went 2-for-3 with a run scored and Danielle Vaji finished 1-for-2 with an RBI-triple while scoring the tying run in the second inning. Then-sophomore pitching duo Jackie Guy and Pepper Gay combined to earn the victor, with Gay coming in as a reliever in the third inning to hold the Leathernecks hitless over the final 4 2/3 innings while striking out six. In the second contest, Davis connected for a solo home run and a sacrifice fly out while Gay tossed a complete-game two-hitter for her 19th win of the season.
Detrick Re-Joins Illini
After transferring to Eastern Illinois for her junior year, Linnea Detrick has returned to the University of Illinois and the Illini softball program. Detrick played her freshman and sophomore seasons with the Orange and Blue before departing for Eastern Illinois. Having transferred once, Detrick will have to sit out the 2012 season as per NCAA policies and will be eligible as a redshirt-senior in 2013.